by Kurtis Workman
Press Staff Writer
Power County Prosecutor Ryan Petersen believes bullying in American Falls schools is much more pervasive than most people believe, and statistics seem to back up Petersen’s belief.
Petersen made a presentation at American Falls High School on Wednesday, April 17. Speaking to freshman, sophomore, and senior students Petersen touched on several types of bullying including: traditional or in-person bullying, cyber-bullying, and bullying with a sexual component.
Petersen presented several statistics about bullying. According to the nationwide studies used by Petersen 15 percent of students surveyed reported being absent because of being bullied. Ten percent had changed schools. Fifty percent of those surveyed claimed to have been the victim of some type of cyber-bullying. Nationally only 10 percent of students that are being bullied will tell a parent, and only five percent of bullied students will report it to law enforcement.
Petersen said he believed the percentage of students that report bullying in Power County is lower than the national average.
“I believe that because we are a smaller community there are even fewer reported cases of bullying here than in the schools used in these studies, but that does not mean there is less bullying,” said Petersen.
Petersen also spoke about some of the unique characteristics of cyber-bullying.
“Most cyber-bullying happens via cell phone, and females are more likely to be cyber-bullies,” said Petersen.
During the presentation Petersen made a pointed plea for students to take responsibility in reducing the level of bullying.
“Nobody here should be a bystander. If you are being bullied or if you know someone that is being bullied; talk to someone, talk to parents, teachers, administrators or law enforcement. Please talk to someone, and know you are not alone,” said Petersen.
Petersen outlined what the response would be from the Power County Prosecutor’s office if a student reports bullying activity.
“First I will talk to you, and find out what is happening. Next we will look for solutions. We will work with other agencies and the school to develop those solutions. Not every instance of bullying requires criminal action, but we will do what is just. Most importantly we will treat you as a friend,” Petersen said.
After the presentation Petersen said he was approached by school administrators about making the presentation.
“Vice Principal Travis Hansen asked my office to come out and speak to students. I was happy to do it because bullying is often a silent crime, and I want you to know there are resources out there to make things better,” Petersen said.
Petersen concluded his presentation to the students by describing the root cause of bullying. “All of these types of bullying have one thing in common. Bullying stems from a lack of respect. Let’s respect each other,” said Petersen.